The Terminator: Special Edition In-depth Review
Date: June 7, 2003
By: Patrick Pilon
Side/Disc 1 (A):
Contains the movie and some easter eggs.
Of all the cyborg movies I've seen, this is the best one (with the exception of 'T2', if you consider that a cyborg movie). It has characters, story and action and they all combined for a great ride. I've seen the third part, and the people who wrote the movie knew the Terminator movies well, but you can tell James Cameron had nothing to do with it. It's an okay movie, but it's not a James Cameron movie. However, I'm here to talk about 'The Terminator', so here goes. You already know what the plot is but... this first installment has a guy sent back in time to save a girl, who's trying to be killed by a cyborg, who's also been sent back in time. The plot is very simple and direct, which is a strength in this case. Nothing gets in the way, and nothing is there to confuse you, unlike, say, 'Nemesis', which is very incoherent.
The acting is very good all around. Linda Hamilton starts out as being a normal teenager in this first part of the series, and she handles her role very well. You see her slow evolution throughout this movie, and you can totally believe her characters in the second one. She has good help from Michael Biehn. He's very confident in his role, and you really believe everything he says. Arnold Schwarzenegger has to look tough and menacing and that's what he looks like. He jump-started his movie career with this, and you can see why - he's probably the best, and coolest, bad guy ever (despite what AFI says).
What the Terminator does is destroy and kill and create all sorts of havoc. He does that with great enthusiasm in this movie. The budget may have only been a meager $6 million, but James Cameron squeezed every red penny out of that. The action looks great. It's exciting and intense and oh-so-well photographed and edited. James Cameron may not write the best dialogue in the world, but you can tell he loves shooting action. He does this incredibly well, which is a good thing. The use of process photography, rear-screen projection, animatronics, miniatures are all very, very well done. You can tell which is which and when if you look closely, but it looks much, much better than so many other movies. Mr. Cameron knows action, he knows how to shoot it, and he does it well.
Okay, I'll mention the score now. I didn't want to but it's stronger than me. The movie may have a great 'Un Chien Andalou' reference, but that doesn't make up for the music. Man is that score cheesy! It reminds me of a big ol' pound of brie. I understand that the movie takes place in 1984 and doesn't hide that fact. The budget may not have been the biggest either, but good god something better could have been made. It does transfer the urgency and the relentlessness of the movie very well, but I haven't heard that many synthesizers since my last Kraftwerk exposure. I don't mind electronic music but something less cheesy-sounding could have been made. I will say that the Terminator theme is great, and is very well made whenever it plays, but I am still very happy Brad Fiedel evolved between this movie and its sequel.
This is a very strong entry into the science-fiction genre. It's usually cited as being on the best sci-fi movies of the 1980s (and sometimes of all time). It's a very nice thrill-ride with an original plot and a very nice story. It has strong and sympathetic characters and the action is great. If you haven't seen this movie than I suggest you go see it. It won't disappoint at all. It's exciting and fast-paced and won't stop for anybody until it's over.
It's a pain to try to see all the eggs, but they're very interesting. There are only a certain number of spots you can get access to them and what clip you see depends on chance. I counted some 30 easter eggs. You have 29 short clips adding up to about 38 minutes 49 seconds, and one nice history of time travel fiction. Editor Mark Goldblatt, f/x dudes Gene Warren (visual effects) and Stan Winston (make-up effects), William Wisher, co-writer/director James Cameron, actor Michael Biehn, composer Brad Fiedel and producer Gale Ann Hurd are all interviewed in short snippets. They give out a lot of interesting anecdotes from the set, as well as their impressions of the director, the movie and other things. Mr. Fiedel talks about the score and the synthesizer use. Mr. Cameron talks about the 6 month break he had between greenlight and shooting, about the script, about technology and robotics, and a million other things. You also have a thing called 'Chrono-Surfing', which is a short essay be Randall Frakes (who co-wrote the novelization of the movie) talking about the history of time travel stories and the influence some of them had on 'The Terminator' and the influence 'The Terminator' had on sci-fi movies. Like I said, it's very interesting, but it's a pain to get to see all of them.
Side/Disc 2 (B):
MGM sure seems to love these double-sided disks for some reason. All the special features are found in here.
You here have a teaser trailer (1:25), the trailer (1:57), and a foreign trailer (3:07), which I think was used to sell the movie to foreign markets (like a kind of EPK), but I could be wrong. You also have 2 television spots, 'Different Time' and 'Pursuit', 30 seconds each. All the trailers are good and sell the movie well, I suppose. If you're into the genre, it won't take much to sell you on the movie, but if you're not really interested I doubt this would convince you.
There are two documentaries here, 'The Terminator': A Retrospective and 'Other Voices'.
- 'The Terminator': A Retrospective
This is around 18 minutes and 10 seconds long. It was done back in 1992, I'm guessing, for the 'Terminator 2' laserdisk. It's mainly Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron reminiscing about shooting the movie. It's a nice feature, with some nice information. You hear about the stolen shot where Mr. Schwarzenegger punched the car's window and other such stories. They also talk about how Arnie got the part, among other things. Like I said, interesting features with nice information. The other documentary is better, though.
- 'Other Voices' Documentary
This is a great documentary. It's an hour 19-seconds long (that would be...3619 seconds, I suppose). It's done completely through interviews. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton's bits are taken from interviews done while shooting 'T2', but the rest are taken from new interviews done for this DVD. The director, producer, composer, editor, visual effects people, William Wisher and Michael Biehn talk about the entire movie in detail. From the beginnings of the script, to getting the thing greenlit, to the crew being assembled and the casting, to the making of the movie, the make-up effects, the special effects, to the initial reception and impact the movie had on the genre, are all addressed. There's a wealth of information on this, worth anybody's time. Anything you want to know is in here. Gale Ann Hurd talks about how they got the money and other such things. Stan Winston talks about how the last shot of the Terminator (the machine, not the movie) was made out of foam, tinfoil and cigarette smoke. The composer talks about how he got the gig. He also talks about how, in his experience, the director's vision isn't really what he sees onscreen, but in Mr. Cameron's case, his vision was seen clearly. It's all very interesting. This, in conjunction with the easter eggs from side A, would serve as a great commentary for the movie.
These are the deleted scenes and there are seven of them. All of them come with an optional commentary by co-writer/director James Cameron. The scenes are:
- Wholesome Sarah (0:16), which is a sort of useless characters bit.
- Wrong Sarah (0:36), in which you're supposed to see the Terminator's lack of emotions.
- Lt. Traxler's Arc (1:27), which is a short collection of 5 scenes of Mr. Paul Winfield's character that were cut out because they didn't get to the point of the movie fast enough.
- Sarah Fights Back (4:18), a long scene that involves Sarah's evolution, and an important scene for Kyle Reese.
- Making Bombs (1:42), is a short scene between Sarah and Kyle, that's probably best left out.
- Tickling Reese (0:33), which shows Kyle and Sarah having fun, but was cut out due to mood reasons.
- The Factory (0:52) is the coda scene that would establish the reason for the sequel.
The comments by Mr. Cameron are enlightening and he tells you why the scenes were cut out. He gets into the characters and the story a bit, also. It's good, but a feature-length track would have also been enjoyable, I'm sure.
There are 5 galleries: 'James Cameron Artwork', which shows some of the meticulous storyboards and conceptual drawings Mr. Cameron did before shooting started; 'Production Photos', which is a detailed gallery that shows pictures from every scene in the entire movie; 'Stan Winston Effects' which shows the numerous physical Terminator effects created for the flick; 'Fantasy II: Visual Effects', in which you see pictures from the future war, the tanker explosion and the stop-motion, as well as some storyboards for the stop-motion sequence; and 'Publicity Materials', in which you see head shots of the actors as well as advertising photos and posters from various countries. This is a very, very detailed bunch of galleries, especially the production photos. It's very nice and you can see every kind of picture you desire. It can get kind of long surfing through these, so keep that in mind when starting a gallery.
This is the 40-something page treatment James Cameron wrote in July 1982. Some details are different but it's pretty much what ended up on screen. The first part of the movie is different - Sarah's friend's lives are elaborated on and she actually does go on a date - but those are only minor things. The ways people get from one situation to another differs slightly also. By and large what ended up on screen is what's in here, except the Cyberdyne thing. James Cameron really had a specific vision for this movie, and the fact that the treatment is so close to the movie is the proof.
Even though I don't have a 5.1 system, I chose to listen to it in 5.1. It has more kick to it that the original mono track. One thing I'll say is I don't like the way MGM programs their DVDs - you can't change sound or subtitle options on the fly, which makes it very easy to compare sound tracks. In any case, there are some great surround effects: lasers fly from one side of the room to another, and trucks swerve and chase each other very well. The dialogue is mostly clear, the sound may seems too low once or twice. The cheesy score and the sound effects come out very nicely. Great remix job!
1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is great for a 17-year old print. It's very clean even though some specks and grain is seen. During the more intense special f/x scenes, the pictures seems worse than the others spots, but I suppose that's to be expected. The colours are well separated but may seem a bit faded. The black level is great. It's overall very impressive video.